Add a little green to your isolation blues by growing an indoor garden

Co-owner of Kuhlmann's Greenhouse Garden Market suggests growing an indoor oasis as a way to cope with pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

'This weather is not going to last forever and eventually these things can go outside'

A sunny windowsill, good potting soil and seeds are all you need to start an indoor garden. (Ganihina Daria/Shutterstock)

Feeling lonely in these days of self-isolation? Try an indoor garden.

Houseplants make good company, says Anita McDonald.

As the co-owner of Kuhlmann's Greenhouse Garden Market, McDonald has spent her career in the northeast Edmonton greenhouse — to her, "the best place to be."

She's encouraging novice gardeners to create their own indoor oasis as a way to cope with the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For people cooped up at home, tending a garden can be "a breath of fresh air," she said.

"It's the perfect time right now," McDonald said in an interview Tuesday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. 

Even though there is snow on the ground in Edmonton, there is no reason to limit your green thumb to the great outdoors, McDonald said. For many people, an indoor garden is a way to get a head start on the spring planting season.

"We know this weather is not going to last forever and eventually these things can go outside," McDonald said. 

"You want to be careful not to start anything that grows too quickly. But flower seeds, peppers, tomatoes and herbs, those can all be started indoors in little pots as long as you have a good window." 

The basics: Good tools, good light

Before you let anything take root, take stock of the sunny spaces available in your home.

You will need plenty of good light, she said.

For a smaller selection of plants, choose a windowsill or kitchen table with a west or south exposure. Larger gardening projects could be undertaken in a light-filled room in the basement or a heated shed with proper lighting.

"Make sure your pots have holes in the bottom and make sure you put your pots on a saucer or a tray and that will collect water so you don't make a mess everywhere," she added. 

To get started, invest in basic gardening tools, appropriately-sized planters and good potting soil.

For seedlings, look for starter soil with lots of fertilizer or buy starter plants that you can nurture indoors, she said.

"We do have some starter plants and seedlings that customers can purchase, for petunias and pansies, marigolds and peppers, even begonias," McDonald said

"They're a little bit of a cheaper price right now so you can get them now and grow them indoors until they're ready to go outdoors." 

A few of your favourite things

Think carefully about what you want to plant, McDonald cautioned. Pick too many different varieties and you may end up overwhelmed with sickly plants. 

"Start slow and don't try to do too many things at one time," McDonald said. 

"Don't think you're going to suddenly grow 50 different things indoors because you're probably going to run into some problems. Don't go overboard.

"Pick a few of your favourite things or things that you know are something that your family really enjoys to eat and concentrate on those things."

Kuhlmann's greenhouse is still operating. It's planting season and the greenhouses need tending, so the business is reluctant to close, McDonald said.

They're offering a pre-order service that allows customers to make an order over the phone and pick up their purchases in the parking lot, she said.

"Our store is quiet. It's not really busy. We usually have four or five customers at one time so there is a lot of room to walk around and social distance," she said.

"We're just taking it day to day."